Semana Santa

I’ve been terrible about writing things down as they happen, so I’m going to try to remember what I did. 

I started out Semana Santa by meeting up with Thomas in Estelí so we could travel together instead of arriving separately to a city neither of us knew. I’m getting pretty familiar with the Matagalpa-to-Estelí trip and it’s not too bad compared to some of my other viajes, but it’s still a 5-hour trip I’d rather avoid for a while.

Anyway, the first leg of our journey was to the beach in León! After some slight drama (getting our alcohol temporarily confiscated) we arrived at the beach where some wonderful friends were waiting.

After the first night, Thomas and I woke up early to see a little sunrise.

Spent the day lounging in the shade because the sun at the beach was not very forgiving, and the water was a little rough.

At some point we climbed atop these rocks where Ashley, our photo goddess, captured our joy.

We caught a nice sunset, too.

Ashley took some pretty gross photos of me and Thomas.

The next morning we went to the city of León, where Thomas and I didn’t spend enough time to actually do anything touristy. Next time.

We traveled to our favorite place, the Laguna de Apoyo. Our training groups spent quite a bit of time drinking batidos and then going to the mirador to gaze at the laguna’s beauty. Naturally, for our first vacation, we had to go back.

We kayaked out into the laguna. We swam and sat in the sun and spent way too much money on food. We took almost no photos, except this on the morning we left.

I’d say this first vacation was a success!

So thankful for this adventure, and looking forward to many more.

Thanksgiving with Otto

In my last post, I mentioned that some friends and I were planning on going to a beautiful location, hiking, and eating cheesecake.

Turns out, none of that happened.

On Tuesday, I received a text from the wonderful safety and security team, who said that all volunteers would need to leave their sites and consolidate in Managua on Wednesday. Tropical Storm/Hurricane Otto had slightly changed course, and there was a chance that it would affect some of our sites in Nicaragua. They wanted us to all be together to ride out the storm, so to speak.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t at all upset that I had to ditch my plans and go to Managua. Embassy families had invited us to spend Thanksgiving with them, but I’d declined because I didn’t want to pay out of pocket and go to Managua, and I really didn’t want to sit on a bus for ten hours over the course of a couple days. So a few of us had made our own plan, and we were excited about it.

When Otto destroyed the plan, I was a little bummed that I’d miss out on homemade cheesecake (like, they make the cheese there) but I was pumped that I’d not only get to see five of my friends, but ALL of them, and have an actual Thanksgiving meal. 

Apparently, this is the only time in about six years that all of the volunteers from around the country were together in one place. I think there are over 150 of us currently in country.

Anyway, thanks to Peace Corps and the awesome people at the Embassy, I got my name on a list so I could have Thanksgiving dinner. I ended up at Ambassador Laura Dugu’s house with about 40 other Peace Corps volunteers. Thanksgiving started when she greeted us at the door and we were immediately offered an assortment of beverages. (I chose white wine, because red would have been an invitation for disaster.)

Thanksgiving continued with food that rivaled my mom’s (which is really saying something.) I was honestly impressed that  they could cook so well for so many people.

Plate #1

The ambassador sat at my table, and maybe a minute after we started eating, I felt the table shake, and very calmly realized that we were having an earthquake. (Apparently, it was a 7-point-something in El Salvador. We had a tsunami warning in Nicaragua for a while, but all is well here.)
I ended up eating a couple plates of food. There was no pumpkin pie when I went for dessert, so I ended up eating some sort of delicious apple concoction and drinking cafe con leche out of fancy gilded cups.

Before we left, all of the guests took a picture with our gracious host.

Then, when I got back to the hotel, I sent my sisters some maternity-style photos of my food baby, as one does.

I spent the rest of the weekend with friends: Playing Cards Against Humanity, playing ERS (I lost, so Thomas is now a game up), and talking Harry Potter with Adrian.

Hurricane Otto made landfall on the coast, but it mostly missed Nicaragua. There may be a little damage, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. All we got in Managua was a little bit of rain, so on Friday we were allowed to go home. 

Most of us ended up staying an extra night in Managua and going to a fancy mall where we couldn’t actually afford anything. The prices were so high that they were in dollars.

We saw Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and then we got some sushi that was waaaaaay over our budget.

I’m back in Matagalpa now, but I’m very thankful that I was able to spend my first Thanksgiving away from home with people who feel like family.

68, see you all at New Year’s.

Unofficial Friendsgiving

On Saturday, after a little over a week in my new place, I headed back to Managua for some Access Camp planning. I live a good 4.5 hours from Managua, so I ended up going to Managua on Saturday, doing Access planning on Sunday, and going home Monday. On Saturday night, we went to a restaurant in Managua for dinner. I got a panini, and the price was in dollars (I know things are not Peace Corps-budget friendly when the prices aren’t listed in córdobas.) The food was great, but I always end up spending too much money in Managua.

After our meeting on Sunday, we decided to go to the grocery store to buy food to cook. I’ve been craving fettuccine alfredo for weeks. (I’m serious: About two months ago, I had an actual dream that I was in a kitchen cooking fettuccine alfredo.) So I dropped that suggestion, and my friends suggested some sautéed veggies, so we spent a few hours looking for ingredients (“Where is the heavy cream? Why isn’t it with the milk? How do you say ‘heavy cream’ in Spanish?”), cooking (“you should really wait until it boils to put the pasta in.” “I know, but I’m too impatient.”) and drinking wine (“I got a fifth bottle. I know us. We needed a fifth bottle.”)

And then, without any jokes about too many cooks in the kitchen, it was ready, and I tested the pasta, and no joke, had an out-of-body experience.

Several of us are having a friendsgiving on actual Thanksgiving, but we’ll probably eat at a restaurant because I don’t think our hostel will have a kitchen. (But the restaurant is farm-to-table and has cheesecake, which is literally all I’ve been talking about since I found the menu online four days ago.)

Anyway, even though Sunday night wasn’t our actual friendsgiving, it kind of felt like one. Most of us hadn’t cooked for ourselves since coming to Nicaragua, and we miss it, and we miss each other. Peace Corps is very much a community and a family, and being back together for a couple days was really nice.

We drank a little wine, ate delicious food, and immediately dove deep into scintillating, meaningful conversations about bad sex ed, gender roles, misogyny and patriarchy, adjusting to life in site, why we’re here, etc.

I feel very lucky to have ended up in this country with this amazing group of people. They share their stories with me, provide diverse perspectives, and don’t judge me when I go for a sixth serving of fettuccine alfredo. (Speaking of which, all day I’ve been kicking myself because I didn’t eat the leftovers for breakfast. We basically cleaned the pan, but it physically hurts me to think of any of that delicious homemade food going to waste.)

We stayed up late talking and telling stories and laughing until we cried, and in the morning, we went our separate ways. I’m happy to be back home, but always sad to leave my friends. Luckily, I’ll see a few of them again on Thursday for our planned Thanksgiving festivities.

Until then, look at this delicious food and my wonderful friends!